Across European cities, there are fewer cars on the roads. When fewer people are driving, drivers tend to drive faster. This leads to more accidents. With the COVID-19 pandemic having more people work from home, the roads are emptier, people are driving fast, and there are more accidents as well as an increase in road deaths.
During the pandemic, speeding is more common according to the firm McGinley Solicitors, which is known for taking care of personal injury claims in Ireland. Since there are increasing speeds and accidents, European cities are changing their roads to make them safer for everyone while providing social distancing for pedestrians. Each city has a different situation and is responding to the situation in their own way.
Paris is one of the large cities in Europe that have made room for large cycle lanes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to create 650 kilometers of pedestrian and cycle pathways. These lanes are for the use by workers and others during their lockdown. Paris already had a plan to expand its cycle-friendly streets with the goal of converting each street by 2024. While there are fears that there will be gridlock caused by increased car traffic once the lockdown is eased, but for now the new cycle lanes provide space for pedestrians to the social distance while making drivers more aware of the dynamic streets. Not everyone is happy, but it is a step in the right direction.
The Belgian city of Brussels has made the city center a 20km zone and has allowed both pedestrians and cyclists to use the full width of the road and given full priority to social distance and walk safely. Brussel’s center is shaped like a pentagon, which allows them to prioritize pedestrians and use the full width of the street. These are essentially becoming residential walking areas. Traffic signs are being installed and police will monitor compliance. The aim of the city is to create more space for residents to walk safely and social distance. Combined with the lower speeds, Brussels is improving their city streets for the new reality everyone is conforming to.
Milan is doing something similar with their city streets. They are closing all their 35 km streets to traffic and introducing more 30 km limits. The city is also converting streets for cycling and pedestrians. This is the most common step within these city limits. Milan is one of the cities that is closing streets to create reasonable traffic and redistribute it to the streets they are monitoring. By shutting down some streets and making room for pedestrians, Milan is making key environmental changes to create a city that works for everyone. Many cities in Italy have been recording cleaner air and reduced pollution due to the pandemic. Milan is one of the cities that has gone from traffic jams to quiet streets, with congestion falling 30-75 percent. The city is taking steps to evolve.
Germany’s capital is one of the most progressive cities in Europe. It is bicycle-friendly. The city has temporarily widened cycle lanes to allow safe roads with social distancing and enough room for people to walk, cycle, and drive. By revamping the streets for COVID-19 conditions, cyclists and pedestrians are safer but not all car drivers are happy. With 40 percent less traffic on the roads and widened cycle lanes, taking the bike out is one of the most ideal modes of transport in Berlin. While the city’s infrastructure remains car-centric, there are plenty of streets and paths for pedestrians. Some narrow streets still support two-way traffic. Those who are still driving are reticent about the changes are having to adapt to a pedestrian-centered Berlin. They hope that it will decrease speeding and accidents that result.
With open roads and increased speeding, there have been more accidents and deaths across Europe. Cities are doing their best to balance the pedestrian room to walk safely and social distance while controlling the traffic of the roads and keeping down speeds. With more pedestrians on the roads, drivers are forced to be more aware of their surroundings and drive slower for fear that they may hit a cyclist or walker. Change isn’t always easy but these European cities are doing their best to adapt to the evolving times.